10 Ways to get Hired by Private Equity and Family Business

Surprising to some, Private Equity is in all areas of business, big and small, public and private. The public market is doing what Sony and the big kingpins of music did – dying. More companies are partnered with Private Equity and the hiring practices are different.
Peter Ploughs from Phoenix Executive Network asked me to present to a group of top C-Suite people about how to get hired to work with Private Equity. Here is a list of the top ten ways to get hired by Private Equity, specifically when they are partnered with a family business:
1. Know how Private Equity works.
I recommend calling companies, not Private Equity, as the owner-operator tends to originate the jobs. Private Equity people are busy and are less likely to see you. The chart shows the wide range of companies working with Private Equity and they have degrees of bureaucracy and risk depending on the type of business. 
Match yourself to your preferred style. If you are a corporate “intrapreneur”, you will hate working for a family business with fewer systems, even if it is $500M in revenues. Know yourself and be honest.

2. Be Likeable
Unlike a corporate position, Private Equity jobs in family businesses will require 5 to 10 years of commitment. If the owner is meeting you, it is critical you make a connection and the owner can see themselves spending time with you and even your family. How you “feel” to the family business team will be the most important criteria for hiring. If the family business owner likes fishing and you do too, good news. Family business hiring is quirky.  If the owner does not like golf players as he believes they waste time, and you have golf listed as an interest, it could prevent a second interview.

3. Be Trustworthy
It comes back in spades. When hiring, family business owners and their private equity partners will call wide and far to find out details on character as well as competencies One story of questionable behaviour and they will turn down the candidate. On the resume, they will want to see you have not bounced around companies and have been promoted. Talk about why you switched jobs.
4. Engage
From the start of a conversation, the owner and CEO is imagining working with you. How will it feel and how are you with problems? Behave as if you are working with them already, rather than pitching for the job. Give ideas and email 100 day plans or strategy. One COO was offered a salary and he chose to send the “no” reply by email on a Friday afternoon. What a difference if he had just got on the phone. The owner and Private Equity asked “Is this how you will deal misunderstandings with our clients?”
5. List business details
The size of past company revenues and growth rates are of great interest to Private Equity and business owners as growth is their goal. They are looking to match the size of business where you have worked with their company. If you were in a $30M revenue company and helped grow it to $100M, this is what they want to hear. What did you do personally to add to the growth?
6. Be “Game On”
This has always been a tenet of good business, but when getting hired by a business partnered with private equity it will be critical. Pay attention to every “Moment of Truth” - how you present yourself to anyone involved with the position. One CFO was approved by the owner and needed the final nod from Private Equity. Thinking that it was fine to be casually dressed as if visiting the plant, this CFO attended a Bay Street lunch in a golf shirt. His insensitivity to social context meant he lost the job offer.
7. Develop Your Mantra
Give a quick verbal one liner to snapshot what you love to do. Think about an accountant. Would it be easier to get an idea if she says, “Empowering clients to reduce their business and family tax over the life of the business”. Position yourself as early in the conversation as possible to not waste anyone’s time.
8. Share stories
People love stories—about how you contributed to your last company, or about an interesting product or a business development program you did that brought in a surprising client. Keep the stories short and simple. A picture is really worth a thousand words too.
9. Remove the road bumps
Have your LinkedIn profile with a good photo (not with your baby) and recommendations. You will show your organization skills if you email your resume labelled with your last name, first name, date and if you mention you have references. Offer to buy a coffee. Make it attractive.
10. Family Business really means Family
For family owned businesses, the rules are very different. They may invite you for dinner. Your wife will be seated next to the owner. The CEO and Private Equity will be paying excruciating attention. Your wife could sink the deal – better to leave her at home if she is ticked off with you. Advise her not to share that “Joe is messy or lazy” or to flirt with the owner. Pay attention to the spouse because often, they own half of the business and are crtical to the hiring decision.

If you’d like to learn more about private equity and how it works, be sure to read Jacoline’s book, Money Magnet: How to Attract Private Equity to your Business. (Publisher: Wiley)

Should PowerPoint Be Banned from Private Equity Pitches?

How worthwhile is to fire up a PowerPoint presentation when meeting with Private Equity for the first time? Is it better to focus on the human connection, after all, all Private Equity investors will say that the people are the most important part of making the decision to do the deal.
What business owners who succeed in raising capital say is that the people test means that you are competent and at an advanced level of competing in your market place. Then, PowerPoint is a very useful tool. You take control of the meeting and get to demonstrate your sophistication and level of business knowledge.
If you do use a PowerPoint, make sure it is short and well rehearsed. Have a range of people view it and make sure it is equal to the level of marketing you do for your business, no less.

Infuse start up teams with females to strengthen the business

Mark Zuckerburg told Sheryl Sandburg, his COO, that he does not check off boxes to get the right people. Mark will not hire to fill a gender quota but he did make Sheryl the most important person on his team and within a short period, the bleeding Facebook was making revenues thanks to Sheryl's new policy on advertising streams.
I also do not like gender and diversity for companies because it is good business sense to have a wide range of people in your business. Ruth Bastedo supports women in business strongly but without the preachiness, just the good business sense. Here is Ruth:
So, what is stopping women from taking major leadership roles in the technology startups of today? Through my work in the field of women entrepreneurs, I have identified five recommendations to increase the number of women in startup teams:
  1. Encourage startup teams to consciously analyze the diversity in their leadership teams. What diversity of thought could be missing as part of the growth strategy? Ask founders what might be missing in the mix, from product development to sales strategy to growth strategy? For example, with consumer-oriented products, how is the team addressing the needs of a female user base? Groupon’s subscription base is over 75% female. This is not the type of number to dismiss lightly. At times, the female viewpoint needs to be represented at senior levels in the organization, even if that female viewpoint is that of the end consumer.
  2. Tap into a base of experienced, older women leaders. Women business leaders in their 40s, 50s, and 60s are excellent sources of experienced management talent for startups. Tapping into this group and engaging them in technology startups as investors or members of a management team or advisory board can be an excellent way to tap into the experience and expertise of these women. This is the view of private equity expert Jacoline Loewen, Director at Loewen and Partners in Toronto and panelist on the Business News Network television show The Pitch. She says, “Startups are like an intense marriage and choosing a woman 50+ to be a founding member, particularly if you are all males under 30, could be a savvy choice… these guys have to get over the stereotype of mum with the cookie tray nagging about a messy room. At age 53, Arianna Huffington did a startup bloggers’ forum website called The Huffington Post which went on to get sold 6 years later to AOL for US$315 million.”
  3. Acknowledge that women may have different needs than their male counterparts. In their early 20s, women can compete more or less head to head with men. Unfortunately, many women soon find that their careers are impacted by the decision to have a family. What they need during this period is as much flexibility as possible. They also need to earn enough money to have good quality childcare so that they can present to that potential investor in New York on the spur of the moment. This need for cash flow during this critical period is important to understand.
  4. Support and nurture organizations that in turn support women entrepreneurs. There are several organizations and initiatives in Canada, and increasingly internationally, that support women who want to engage and be successful in high-growth startups. The support for these organizations needs to come from multiple sectors: government, professional services, technology, financial services, and academia. In order to increase the likelihood of success, women need the contacts, networks, mentorship, and access to information that these initiatives can provide. Compelling examples of these types of initiative in Canada include:
    Further examples from the United States include:
  5. Expose technology and computer science to girls in a more compelling way. Girls and young women love using technology, as any parent with any exposure to girls and their Webkinz can attest to, but how can this early enthusiasm and interest be translated into an interest in product and software design? How can we teach girls to engage in programming in a more appealing way? There are those that are trying, but the representation of women in computer science departments continues to decline. From 2002 through 2009, the proportion of female graduates from computer science bachelor degree programs declined from 19.4% to 11.3% in Canada and the United States (Zweben, 2009).
    Initiatives such as Alice, educational software that teaches students computer programming in a 3D environment at Carnegie Mellon, show a model of how to engage girls in middle school. Alice allows students to learn fundamental concepts of programming and programming logic without a background in mathematics and programming. The software introduces a storytelling model, which allows girls to create software that is personally relevant to them. (For further details on the promise of the Alice approach for influencing later success in computer science education, see the paper by the National Center for Women & Information Technology) Going through the process of learning how to program is very important in the technology industry, not only as a potential pathway to becoming a programmer, but also as important background to enable more effective interactions with technical teams. This early engagement in technology is a critical step in getting women to the point where, in their 20s, they might find themselves in an environment conducive to creating the next “killer app”.
From my vantage point, following these recommendations would help infuse our existing startup teams with female talent and nurture the younger generation of women that is interested in using technology to create products and services that are consumer friendly. Encouraging more women to be a part of high-growth technology startup teams, as entrepreneurs or otherwise, will result in well-balanced technology companies that can compete effectively in today’s diverse world.
Read this article... 

Is Ruth Bastedo Right about Women and Start Ups?

With the recent flurry from Facebook's female COO, Sheryl Sandburg, discussing how women need to lean into their careers, how about encouraging women to apply for positions in start ups?
I'm with Sheryl, women need to do more of the stepping forward. I spent the weekend with a family where the 16 year old daughter won the science fair project, yet the mother is encouraging to follow music. When I probed, she told me she plays the piccolo and, no, she has not won any music award. Her mother just thinks the piccolo is "lovely", but a recent trip to see Billy Elliott shocked them as the entire wind section f the orchestra was done by a key board.
I mentoned to the girl that if she loves science, she might think of the big salary that comes from getting a degree in engineering or science. I also told her there would be scholarships for a female. She can still play the piccolo as a hobby.
In the same line of thinking, Ruth Bastedo's article got me thinking that older women would be great foils for young start ups entrepreneurs. Ruth says:
A recent Catalyst study showed that companies with three or more women on their board of directors outperform those with fewer women by 53% on return on equity, 42% on return on sales, and 66% of return on invested capital (Joy et al., 2007). Moreover, the study found that the link between women board directors and corporate performance holds across industries. I am convinced that part of the reason for our startup’s success, was that, at all times, there was that strong female representation in the founding leadership team (with a female COO and VP Creative) that impacted all parts of the company, ranging from product and service development, client service, human resources, operations, and business development. Our “secret sauce” was the diversity in our leadership team.
If diverse startup teams can be so successful, why are they so rare? Among other factors, the following reasons contribute to the rarity of women on startup teams:
  1. There are few women who have a background in technology.Women looking to work with a technology startup are more likely to have a background in sales, project management, marketing, legal issues, or human resources. Even in my case, when I did my new media training at the Vancouver Film School in 1995, there were four women in my class of about 25. To make matters worse, the numbers of women enrolling in computer science at universities is actually dwindling, as will be discussed later.
  2. There are very few venture capitalists and investors who are women. Women who are investors are at least likely to connect with women on startup teams. In the United States, investment firms with at least one woman partner are 70% more likely to invest in a women entrepreneur than firms that have only make partners, according to a whitepaper published by the venture capitalist firm Illuminate Ventures.
  3. There is no incentive for change. Having young women in key leadership roles is challenging. My partners were not thrilled that I took two maternity leaves, albeit short ones, within two years. People in general are very comfortable with the status quo, and the technology community has a comfortable homogeneity when it comes to the model for success. But as one recent columnist, Natasha Mooney, said, “Hiring your first woman employee when you’re a 30-person company is far more difficult than when you’re a 5-person company.”

Ruth Bastedo,
Read the full article.

Private equity and Jon Huntsman

There is the mistaken belief that the USA president candidate Jon Huntsman is the same Jon Huntsman who co-founded a $1.1 billion private equity firm called Huntsman Gay Global Capital. But he isn't.
The Jon Huntsman running for president is the former governor of Utah and U.S. Ambassador to China. The private equity Jon Huntsman is his father, who previously founded specialty chemicals company Huntsman Corp. and who isn't nearly as involved with the firm as is co-founder Bob Gay (a former colleague of Romney's, as it so happens). The firm also happens to employ Jon Jr.'s brother Paul as a vice president.
Huntsman Jr. does not have any financial interest in his father's firm, according to a source familiar with the matter. He would have a good understanding of the use of many private equity firms who have taken their financial power to re-energize businesses that might otherwise go bankrupt.

Who Will Win the Private Equity Cage Battle between The Bay and J.Crew

Since The Bay's renewal, the males in my family have bought all of their casual clothing there over the past year, and  I had no intention of even window shopping, yet ended up buying business suits too. I would personally say The Bay is back to being a go-to-shopping spot again. 
The Bay has achieved their relaunch thanks to private equity backing with financial depth, and the gutsy CEO, Bonnie Brooks, is probably still in the midst of the final transformation. It is with alarm that I hear the rumours that the preppy and likeable J. Crew is looking to open in Canada. 
Is there room? 
Lands End had to leave with its tail between is legs. How will J. Crew be different?
Well, first, J. Crew will also have the deep pocket, private equity backing that The Bay enjoys. Here is an article detailing the private equity story:
Now we find out that the American retail chain BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. announced Wednesday that it has agreed to be bought by private equity firms Leonard Green Partners (LGP) and CVC Capital Partners in a $2.8 billion cash deal.
Taking lead advisory roles on the deal are lawyers from Latham WatkinsSimpson Thacher, Bartlett, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale Dorr and Potter Anderson Corroon.
Under the terms of the transaction, BJ's shareholders are to receive $51.25 per share, a premium of nearly 7 percent premium over the stock's closing price on June 28, according to the BJ's statement. A proxy statement with additional information on the agreement has yet to be released to shareholders and the SEC, the companies said.
BJ's board of directors has unanimously approved the deal and has recommended it for shareholder approval. The company expects to close the acquisition in the fourth quarter.
BJ's, which operates 190 warehouse outlets in 15 states, is one of the top warehouse chains in the country and the latest in a string of retail pick-ups for LGP this year. The investment house acquired preppy clothier J.Crew, last November and added the craft-and-hobby chain Jo-Ann Stores in December.